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Wm. Morrison Supermarkets plc : Morrison's Profit Pressured by Tough Christmas

01/09/2014 | 04:06am US/Eastern

LONDON--Morrison Supermarkets PLC (MRW.LN) said Thursday that full-year profit would be at the low end of market expectations as customers cut spending over the Christmas period and it was hit by its continuing absence from the online market.

"In a very tough market our sales performance over Christmas was disappointing. However we are firmly focused on driving our core business and accelerating our penetration of the fast growing channels," Chief Executive Dalton Philips said.

In the six weeks ended Jan. 5, the U.K. supermarket chain's total sales excluding fuel were down by 1.9%. With fuel included, the figure was 3.3%. Like-for-like sales were down 5.6%, excluding fuel and 7.1% including fuel.

Analysts' forecasts put Morrison's full-year underlying profit in the range of 783 million pounds ($1.29 billion) to GBP853 million, giving a consensus figure of GBP812 million, according to data compiled by the company.

In spite of a tough market, Morrison's insisted that its profit outlook was "resilient."

It said difficult conditions were intensified by the growing importance of online and convenience shopping, where Morrison is under-represented, and by targeted couponing, which was particularly prevalent this Christmas.

The company has 85 convenience stores and aims to have 200 by the end of 2014-15, while its online food operation is ready to launch, it said.

Morrison's shares closed Wednesday at 254 pence, giving the company a market value of GBP5.94 billion.

Write to Digby Larner at digby.larner@wsj.com

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